Business For Downtown Hartford held a round table discussion Wednesday with guest speaker Executive Director Michael Friemuth of the Capital Region Development Authority. The BFDH is a grass roots association of concerned businesses for downtown Hartford. The sole goal of the BFDH is to come together for the betterment of all business in the city. A section of seating at Black Eyed Sally’s restaurant on Asylum St. was completely filled with business owners and managers from hotels, restaurants and more. The purpose of the event was to discuss the CRDA’s residential and commercial projects, including the XL Center.
In this particular get together there was plenty of good news on projects in the city. The CRDA handed out a sheet of information marking nine Hartford properties that were either historic building recapture projects or new construction all together. In every example Friemuth noted that the projects are exceeding their original projections. They are exceeding everyone’s expectations. So much so that yesterday the group was informed that the projects are about a year ahead of where they thought they would be. The residents coming in are not transplants from within the city, 85% of them are new to Hartford. About a third of them are graduate students and the other two thirds are young professionals and 90% of the new residents are single and under the age of 40.
Friemuth noted in his opening remarks that Federal, State, City officials and even banks had told the CRDA that their original projections were a little too optimistic. As you can see there was a serious need for downtown housing. “It was more of a supply problem than a demand problem”, Friemuth said in regards to the favorable return on the housing investments. Hartford will take some time to absorb the housing they have developed since they are ahead of schedule and they hope to retain about 60-75% of the occupants from year to year.
The news about the XL Center is also good. The original plan had the major renovation taking up to 3-5 years over the months of May to early October. Recently the CRDA held their monthly meeting where they mentioned moving up the renovation over 2-3 years over the same time frame while consequentially doing a lot of work behind the scenes while the building is live during the winter months. Friemuth noted in the meeting that over the summer months an extra shift or two can be added to work around the clock on the heavy renovation work that would involve connecting the second concourse. Of course that would come at a premium which they are examining currently. More details on this can be found by looking at the CRDA website. @WhalerWatch on twitter has also put out a tweet that the CRDA will have XL Center renderings soon.
Now if you have stuck with me this far you might be wondering how this has anything to do with hockey. Well in my mind it is very helpful to Hartford Hockey and it also shuts the door on some naysayers of Hartford. You may have heard people say that no one wants to live downtown, these projections tell a more accurate reality. Also having more young, single people downtown means they are going to look for things to do. They will want things to do during winter months, during the week, with their friends. The XL Center currently has 53 hockey games this season between the Hartford Wolf Pack and UConn Men’s Hockey.
The sooner the XL Center gets up to modern day standards the better, moving up the timeline for the XL Center to get a facelift is a good thing for hockey in Hartford. A high tide lifts all boats. It keeps UConn in the building and almost guarantees they’ll sign that 20 year agreement. And to the dismay of the Hartford naysayer, it keeps the Hartford Whalers in the back of the mind of every true die-hard Hartford Hockey fan. They are out there out there and they are many. Believe me I have looked.